Magic Marbella

I’ll confess; I’ve always been something of a Costa del Snob – shunning mainland Spain in favour of other shores.

‘Too touristy, too tacky, too crowded,’ being my main (unfounded) beliefs. A road trip around part of Spain’s southeastern coast last summer shot quickly shot those notions down. But when it came to the idea of Marbella? Well the jury was still out. 

Admittedly shows like The Only Way is Essex with its big haired, big ego-ed, big bank account ‘babes’ and their depiction of ‘Marbs’ hadn’t helped matters but when the chance presented itself to escape Belfast’s cold wet weather at the end of October last year and spend a long weekend at one of the resort’s  top hotels in the sunshine of the Costa del Sol it was just too tempting an offer to even try and resist.

Leaving Belfast International first thing on the Friday morning had us arriving into Malaga just after 11am and a short transfer later we were driving into Marbella. The white washed, low rise buildings, palm trees and brightly coloured flowers hanging from every balcony had me beginning to doubt myself and by the time we’d finished checking into our hotel, the Amàre Marbella, I was ready to hold my hands up and admit I’d got it all very wrong. 

First impressions count and the recently renovated Amàre prides itself on being a hotel for the senses. Acting as a unique exhibition space – photography, fashion, design, sculpture and  moving art from local artists are present through the building and the hotel’s bespoke scent fills the corridors and lobby. 

The adults only, beachfront property is contemporary in style and feels undeniably cool but the charm and warmth that we were met with was proper old school. Friendly staff and the mix of young and old clientele made it clear that while the hotel may have a real buzz about it, it’s not reserved strictly for the hip. 

To describe our suite as ‘a room with a view’ would be something of an understatement. The ‘Oh Là Là, The One’ rooms boast large patio doors and a spacious balcony offering unspoilt views of the Mediterranean. Modern décor washed with sunlight and all the mod cons, including a bluetooth enabled speaker system, Nespresso coffee machines and flat screen TVs mean it is equally easy to relax or stay tuned in. If you don’t think stunning views alone are enough to merit an upgrade then the fact that Oh Là Là guests have access to a lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks and can enjoy a relaxing water circuit in the spa daily may sway you…

The Amàre Marbella has considered every possible stress and found a way to eradicate it. The Amàre Club encompasses a private beach, spacious pool, indoor lounge and outdoor restaurant.

Whether your preference is for beach or pool, staff greet you with towels and help you make your selection – there’s no fighting for sun loungers here. The pool is lovely but the Beach Club is something else. Wooden decking leads to an enclosed area and comfortable loungers. But the best bit? Staff leave you with a buzzer that means cocktails, soft drinks, hot and cold food can be yours at just the touch of a button. The only problem is in deciding what to try.

As if weren’t feeling lucky enough, we enjoyed unseasonably good weather on our stay with cloudless skies, plenty of sunshine and temperatures peaking at 27•C – perfect for exploring. At this point I should mention that the area people frequently refer to as ‘Marbs’ is in fact Puerto Banus and that’s a whole taxi ride away. Ah ha confusion cleared up! 

The Amàre has bikes that guests can borrow to see the sights – it’s also possible to cycle the promenade to Puerto Banus, a mecca for shoppers and party goers. But with our picturesque setting right in Marbella’s Old Town I wondered why you would want to go anywhere else.

Cobbled, windy streets feel typically Andalusian and everywhere you go there are pretty blossoms and clusters of potted plants, aloes and orchids – all very Instagram-able.

Back at the hotel and when it comes to gastronomical delights the Amàre has you covered. The Belvue rooftop bar, with its infinity 360• views, is the perfect place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink while watching the sun set over the Med before a meal in one of the hotel’s restaurants.

The Messina Restaurant is the Amàre’s Michelin Star offering. Judged as the 10th best restaurant in Spain for creative cuisine at Madrid Fusión’s Gastronomy awards, elaborate dishes combine high quality local products with sublime presentation. There is also the Mare Nostrum restaurant where diners can enjoy a buffet style/live cooking experience and the Amàre Lounge that serves up entertainment with its cuisine in the form of flamenco shows and themed dinners.

While Puerto Banus seemed a little bit too much like hard work for us we were still keen to embrace some local hospitality so after dark ventured back into the old town and Orange Square to visit ‘David Place’, a small gem of a place that feels half watering-hole, half fancy dress shop. Here patrons can choose to wear a variety of head wear (there was everything from crowns, to sailors’ hats, gladiator masks, stetsons and much, much more) while enjoying a beverage. If you don’t pick your own hat then owner, David (funny enough), will get one for you – don’t ask me why this works, it just does. The craic was great and the tiny bar was filled with a mix of tourists and locals.

The nightlife in Marbella may be more relaxed than its lively neighbour but there is still plenty to choose from and the same can be said for restaurants.

Feeling somewhat delicate the next day, a factor due to too many of David’s delicious mojitos and zero to do with the ridiculously comfortable hotel bed, we ventured to the Mare Nostrum restaurant. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I very much judge any hotel by its selection so thankfully the Amàre didn’t disappoint, with every culinary whim catered for – enjoying a chilled Cava (it would have been rude not to) with a sea view is definitely my new favourite hangover cure!

No good girls’ weekend would be complete without a trip to the spa and the Germaine de Capuccini spa at Amàre offers a hydrotherapy circuit with professional treatments, massages and relaxation zones. I opted for a Vitamin C facial to help boost my out of season suntan.

I visited Marbella and the Amare with my best friend but would have enjoyed the experience just as much with my partner or even my mum. Testament to how relaxing it was is the fact that, leaving on the Monday, our three day stay had felt more like a fortnight.  So, while August may be drawing to end, if you’re feeling like you’re not ready to give up on summer and the holidays just yet then consider a trip to this Andalusian treasure – babes.

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